For more than 20 years, the leadership studies program at Kansas State has worked on ways to grow leadership capabilities in its students, and for almost as many years, the Cats4Cans drive has helped them reach that goal.
Introduction to Leadership Concepts, or LEAD212, uses the can drive as a way for students to put the classroom concepts they’ve been studying into real-world experiences. All the items collected through the drive go to the Flint Hills Breadbasket.
“This is a great way for students to build on what they have learned,” Amanda Cebula, instructor for the Staley School of Leadership, said. “[The lessons] may not have clicked for them by reading off a Powerpoint — by doing something to make them think about what they are learning in class, they can learn more.”
Tamara Bauer, instructor for the Staley School of Leadership, said leadership and service are closely linked, which is why the school promotes service activities such as the can drive.
Students learn about food insecurity, a problem that approximately 40 percent of K-State students face, before participating in the service learning activity, Bauer said.
Teaching students the facts of the issues they are trying to combat, like the prevalence of food insecurity in their peers, drives the point of the project a little closer to home, Bauer said.
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Through the month of October, students in the class work on the can drive itself. The last two weeks of October is when students go out into the community to raise awareness about food insecurity and collect non-perishable food items to take to the Flint Hills Breadbasket.
Both Bauer and Cebula participated in Cats4Cans when they were K-State students. It has changed over the years, Bauer said, but it has only gotten better. The can drive has been a community staple in the fall months, which due to holidays and weather, is when the Breadbasket is at its busiest.
“I remember doing the can drive in Lead 212 when I was a freshman in 2004,” Cebula said. “It is really interesting and fun to be on the other side as an instructor.”
Students get out of the experience what they put in, Bauer said. They may learn that they have a passion for food insecurity or discover something else that they may be passionate about.
“I think the the enthusiasm and spirit that they bring to this activity makes it so rewarding,” Cebule said. “You can do this and just get points, but I see our students being creative and resourceful. They take it as a challenge. They know it isn’t just about class, it is about changing lives.”